It’s never too late to start living your truth. Kenneth Felts is a testament to that.
At the age of 90, he’s finally opening up about an essential part of his life that he’s long kept hidden: Felts is gay.
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“I had been keeping this secret most of my life, and I had planned to take it to the grave,” he explained in an interview on the 3rd Hour of TODAY Friday.
But the Colorado resident recently had a change of heart. During the past few months in quarantine, he decided to start writing a memoir, one that couldn’t be complete without revealing his sexual orientation.
So that’s just what he did.
“In 1942 when I was 12, I realized I was gay,” the nonagenarian recalled.
As a child growing up in a strictly religious household in Kansas, he felt unable to express that to anyone else or pursue any such relationship — at least until he left home.
Eventually, he had intimate encounters with other men, but he never spoke of them, because in the 1950s and ‘60s, it seemed impossible for him to do so.
“If you came out, it really would cost you — your family, your job, all of your relationships,” Felts explained. “You would immediately be called a pervert.”
And so the secret part of his life remained a secret, even after he joined Navy and met a man named Phillip, whom he fell in love with and devoted two years of his life to. They “were just happy with each other,” Felts said, looking back on their relationship now. “It was a void in my life that had suddenly been filled by another person who, apparently, had some of the same needs," he said. "And we just melted into each other.”
What tore them apart was Felts himself, who, following church services one Sunday, realized he couldn’t reconcile his love with his faith.
In the intervening years, he went on to marry a woman, father a daughter and later divorce. Although he remained in the closet, it was his daughter who came out to him as a lesbian in 1995.
It took him another 25 years to come out to her.
“One day I was talking to Rebecca and I just happened to mention, I wish I had never left Philip,” Felts said.
Once his daughter knew the truth, he decided to tell more people — as in everyone, via a candid Facebook post.
His announcement was met with warmth, acceptance and a desire to see a reunion. Even complete strangers offered to find Phillip for him after learning of his story, but what they discovered was that Phillip had died.
“That was a real blow to me,” Felts said through tears. “I’m sorry I didn’t have the chance to say goodbye.”
“A lot of them telling me that they've got more courage now to come out,” he said with a smile, also adding, "I'm out, I'm gay and I'm free."
This story first appeared on TODAY.com. More from TODAY: